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Preview: Barnsley vs. Middlesbrough - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Barnsley vs. Middlesbrough - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Saturday's Championship game between Barnsley and Middlesbrough.

Barnsley play host to Middlesbrough in the Championship on Saturday afternoon knowing that victory will haul their opponents back into a relegation scrap.

However, the visitors are aware that avoiding defeat at Oakwell will ensure that they at least maintain their nine-point advantage over the bottom-placed side.

Match preview

Having gone through the turn of the year with four successive wins, Jonathan Woodgate would have had his sights set on the top half of the table after moving clear of the relegation zone.

However, a run of seven games without success, which has included four draws, has cancelled out Boro's earlier progress and left them looking over their shoulder towards the relegation zone.

Although there is a six-point gap to 22nd-placed Wigan Athletic, the bottom three are showing signs of improvement, which will concern Woodgate ahead of facing one of their rivals.

Last weekend's defeat at home to Luton Town would have particularly hurt, and a further setback at the bottom-of-the-table outfit would lead to question marks being raised over Woodgate's position.

While the goal return of Lewis Wing has been the main positive for Boro in recent weeks, the North-East outfit are without a first-half strike since January 11.

On the back of five defeats from half-a-dozen outings, Gerhard Struber would have feared the worst when taking his out-of-form Barnsley team to face Fulham last weekend.

However, helped by errors from Fulham goalkeeper Marek Rodak, the visitors recorded a deserved 3-0 victory to move to within six points of safety.

Despite having much work to do, Barnsley will view their upcoming 10 matches, all against teams currently outside of the top seven, as opportunities to move closer to 21st position.

Cauley Woodrow has been in tremendous form, netting five times from as many games in all competitions, but the frontman requires help from his teammates at a pivotal point of their season.

Barnsley Championship form: LLLDLW
Barnsley form (all competitions): LLLDLW

Middlesbrough Championship form: LDDLDL

Team News

With Dael Fry due to sit out the rest of February through injury, Ryan Shotton could be brought back into the starting lineup.

Britt Assombalonga will also expect to feature in place of Lukas Nmecha, who remains without a goal since joining on loan from Manchester City.

Struber has an easier task on his hands, with the Barnsley boss likely to name an unchanged starting lineup.

Bambo Diaby remains out of contention for the Yorkshire side ahead of a possible doping ban.

Barnsley possible starting lineup:
Collins; Ludewig, Sollbauer, Halme, Williams; Thomas, Bahre, Mowatt; Woodrow; Brown, Chaplin

Middlesbrough possible starting lineup:
Pears; Howson, Moukoudi, Shotton, Coulson; Wing, Saville, McNair; Fletcher, Tavernier; Assombalonga

We say: Barnsley 1-1 Middlesbrough

Barnsley need the win more so than Middlesbrough, and that could see the home side throw caution to the wind. However, they still need to find the right balance, and Boro may capitalise should they be able to frustrate their hosts.

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